Olympus Pen E-P5

This impressive Pen camera from Olympus comes with built-in Wi-Fi, an appealing design and generally snappy performance to satisfy photographers who crave speed.


8.6
CNET Rating

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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Buoyed by the success of earlier Pen cameras and the top-of-the-range OM-D, Olympus has combined the best of these models in the E-P5. It's an interchangeable lens camera (ILC) based on the Micro Four Thirds system, but SLR photographers will find plenty to like about this little machine.

Design and features

Apart from the obvious inspiration from Olympus cameras of yesteryear, the E-P5 has a 3-inch touchscreen that tilts out and down from the camera body and comes with the requisite touch features, like tap to focus and shoot. It's also has a very high resolution, at 1.03 million dots.

With an all-metal construction, the E-P5 feels particularly sturdy in the hand. At the front, the grip is textured and comfortable, though not removable like the version found on the E-P3, this camera's predecessor.

What is most intuitive about the new Pen is the dual-dial control system. If you are accustomed to shooting with two dials on an SLR to adjust parameters like aperture and shutter speed, the Olympus system will be second nature. There is one wheel at the front and another at the top of the camera, with both able to be used simultaneously to change a particular parameter.

The dual-dial configuration on the E-P5, as well as the top panel layout.
(Credit: CBSi)

You can adjust these parameters even further by flicking the switch around the record button. In the menu system, there are four presets to switch between, but the most useful combination we found was switching the dials between aperture/shutter and white balance/ISO control. Unlike the function button, though, Olympus has only given you four (preset) options to choose from when using the switch.

For photographers who enjoy manual focus, there is now focus peaking on the E-P5. Rather than a flashing or coloured outline to indicate the area in focus, the screen (or viewfinder) just displays a solid black overlay to indicate the focus point.

On the mode dial, users can select from a number of different shooting options. There are full manual, shutter priority, aperture priority and program modes, plus intelligent auto. Olympus equips the E-P5 with 12 art filters ranging from pop art through to watercolour effect, while scene modes run the gamut, from portrait to 3D photo. The Photo Story option, which first made its debut on the compact XZ-10, also appears on this camera. It lets you choose frame layouts for taking photos and automatically constructs an image made out of several photos you take in sequence.

Connectivity is provided via micro HDMI and a proprietary mini USB-out port. An accessory port, located just underneath the hotshoe, can be used in conjunction with the VF-4 electronic viewfinder (EVF) that tilts and boasts a resolution of 2.36 million dots. The EVF is an optional extra, the same as other accessories that use the port such as microphones and macro lights.

A sturdy pop-up flash also sits on the top panel, and is activated with a button located just behind it. While it doesn't tilt, it provides coverage to 7 metres and has a sync speed of 1/320 second. The E-P5's maximum shutter speed is 1/8000 second, which is a value normally reserved for high-end professional SLRs. Photographers who enjoy shooting with fast lenses will appreciate the rating, which allows them to use the lens wide open at values of f/1.8 and the like without the risk of over-exposure.

The built-in flash delivers a burst of light to images.
(Credit: CBSi)

Like the OM-D before it, the E-P5 comes with five-axis image stabilisation that helps to reduce shake in five axis directions: vertical angle rotation, horizontal angle rotation, horizontal shift, vertical shift and rolling camera shake.

Wi-Fi connectivity

Olympus has taken a unique approach to integrating Wi-Fi into the camera. Rather than having to worry about manually entering an SSID and password into your mobile device, the E-P5 will display a QR code on the screen. Take a photo of this with the tablet or smartphone from within Olympus Image Share (Android or iOS), and the connection will automatically establish itself. The app also gives access to photo and video transfer, a remote viewfinder option and the ability to add filters and edit images.

Establishing a connection with a tablet or smartphone is simplified through the use of a QR code.
(Credit: CBSi)

Once the connection has been established, browsing the memory card from a smartphone is easy, though there is a short delay before thumbnail images are displayed. Images can be transferred at original or resolution, and all the EXIF data is preserved after transfer. You cannot, however, pull across RAW photos taken on the E-P5 as the app only supports JPEG images.

The app also allows for geotagging images, as geolocation information is sent straight to the camera when this option is selected.

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 1.40.20.20.08
    Olympus E-P5
  • 0.70.40.60.04
    Olympus OM-D E-M5
  • 0.80.70.70.2
    Olympus E-P3
  • 10.70.80.3
    Sony NEX-7

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in FPS)

  • 10
    Sony NEX-7
  • 9.6
    Olympus E-P5
  • 9
    Olympus OM-D E-M5
  • 3.2
    Olympus E-P3

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The E-P5 can take 17 shots at a rate of 9.6fps in RAW (high-speed continuous) before slowing down, then proceeds at a rate of 3.7 frames per second. For high-quality JPEG photos, the E-P5 can push out 18 frames at 9.6fps before this drops to 6fps as the buffer starts to fill. It then takes approximately six seconds to clear this burst after shooting.

The autofocus system, the same as that found on the OM-D, does not disappoint. It's quick and accurate, no matter which way you choose to use it — through the touchscreen or just by pressing the shutter button. Very little seems to faze it, including low-light situations and tricky compositions.

Image quality

The E-P5 delivers the best images we've seen thus far from a Micro Four Thirds camera. The majority of our testing was conducted with the 17mm f/1.8 Zuiko lens.

Overall, dynamic range is good, and colours on the default settings are nice and punchy for those who like to shoot JPEG images straight out of the box. Detail is more recoverable on shadow rather than highlight areas, though, and the camera does have a tendency to slightly blow out highlights on automatic exposures.

The E-P5 applies a pleasing level of sharpening when processing its JPEG images, as you can see in the comparison below.

(Credit: CBSi)

Photos remain clean up to and including ISO 800. At ISO 1600 and higher, there is a slight degree of colour noise over images, though only visible at 100 per cent magnification. ISO 3200 has quite a lot of noise that does start to detract from detail in the frame.

Video quality is fine, but not best in class for ILCs. Moire can be an issue, while some compression artefacts are visible across the image. Audio from the stereo microphones is good; however, don't forget that you can use an additional external microphone thanks to the E-P5's accessory port.

Video can be taken in any of the PASM modes with the option of single, continuous, manual focus or tracking AF. There is only one frame rate available — 1080/30p in high or normal quality, 720/30p or 640/30p. Adjustments to the picture style can also be made. Stabilisation while moving or panning the camera is great.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/100, f/1.8, ISO 320

Exposure: 1/125, f/2.5, ISO 320

Exposure: 1/40, f/2, ISO 1600

Exposure: 1/160, f/2.5, ISO 200

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

Olympus has another winner on its hands with the E-P5, with fast focusing backed up with a solid image-taking base. The speed of this camera comes into its own when used for a number of different applications, but the E-P5 excels particularly well for street photography. The AF system is so quick (and accurate) to lock on to a focus point that pointing and shooting takes on a whole new meaning for impromptu and unplanned photography.

The E-P5 is available as body only in silver or black for AU$999, AU$1199 in silver or black as a single lens kit, or AU$1499 in silver or black with the 17mm f/1.8 lens and VF-4 viewfinder.



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